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Crawford County Health Officer Statement

Community news | Thursday, May 14, 2020

FROM: Cindy Riniker, Health Officer

RE: Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling COVID-19

In light of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling on May 13, Crawford County Health Department, in conjunction with our emergency operation center, city and county government, urges county residents to continue to take the necessary steps to continue to protect the health and safety of themselves, their families and community.

Regrettably, the state of Wisconsin and Crawford County are not ready to go back to ‘business as usual.’ A complete return to pre-COVID function will result in a dramatic rise in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, and could necessitate future prolonged shutdowns. Such events would cause widespread devastation to both our community and our economy. To prevent this, we must work together to respond in a united, informed way that balances livelihood with saving lives. Specifically, we must: (1) track local data, (2) use that data to guide our decisions, and (3) act together. Crawford County believes in openness, honesty and transparency, and we are sharing this information because we know that it will help our residents understand the plan that will keep our families and community safe.

Data-driven Decision-making

Crawford County has both an overall strategy with goals and objectives as well as our own metrics that align with the state. Our goal is simple: proactively prevent disease and death from COVID-19 as well as its economic impacts.

Towards achieving this goal, we are tracking data specific to Crawford County and those counties within our region that fall into 3 categories:

  1. Epidemiology – including new cases, doubling time, the percentage of tests that are positive, and testing levels;
  2. Public health capacity – including interviewing cases within 24 hours of receipt and contacts within 48 hours of the case interview;
  3. Healthcare – including capacity to handle a future surge (ie-availability of ventilators, ICU beds available, and personal protective equipment supply) and to care for severely ill patients.

We will know that our community is prepared for widespread reopening when the metrics in these categories demonstrate that we are adequately identifying and curbing the spread of disease, and that our public health and healthcare systems are prepared for a new wave of infections. For example, the current status of our four epidemiology metrics as of May 14th are as follows:

Epidemiology Metric

Status of Metric in Crawford County

Observe a 10% decrease in the
number of new cases, comparing
recent 2 weeks with prior 2 weeks.

Not Met Crawford County has had a 567% increase in the last 2 weeks.

Observe doubling time of 6 days or more.

Not Met
Today (5/14) Crawford County positive cases doubled.

Observe less than 10% of test results are positive.

4.6% of the total test have been positive in the last 2-week period.

Ensure daily testing is at least 75% the number needed for surveillance.

Not Met This week are at 47% of the recommendation.

As you can see, we are not meeting all of these metrics yet. As of May 1st, our COVID-19 cases here in our county have increased by an average of one a day. Also, cases continue to rise in the counties surrounding us both here in Wisconsin and across the river in Iowa.

Call to Action

This is a time for unity.

As of May 13th, thousands (10,902) of people in Wisconsin have contracted COVID-19, thousands (1,908) have required hospitalization, and hundreds (421) have died.

COVID-19 is a virus that spreads through droplets from those infected who may or may not have symptoms. This virus is not political. We must use the tools we have available to minimize the spread of the virus and the disease, destruction and death it can cause.

As the Health Officer of the Crawford County, I urge all businesses and customers, residents and visitors to do ALL of the following:

  • Stay at home as much as possible and if you are sick.
  • Minimize close physical contact with those outside of your household.
  • Maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and others when out in public.
  • Minimize travel, especially to areas considered “viral hotspots” within and beyond our state borders
  • Wear a fabric face covering if you must be in public
  • Minimize congregating in groups of any size, we still recommend groups of ten or less.
  • Practice good hygiene:
    • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
    • Avoid touching your face

Businesses are responsible to take action to protect the health of their employees and customers, as well as preventing the transmission of disease in their facilities. For recommendations on how to re-open responsibly, follow the guidance documents available through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Crawford County government will lead by example and will not open our buildings until it is safe. We ask others to join us in waiting for the data to guide our decisions and fully adopting all recommendations. We will not open until we can protect our workforce and the public. We strongly encourage all businesses, churches, events, and others to do the same.

Public Health continues to have the authority to enact and enforce future orders according to state statute 252.03, which states “Local health officers may do what is reasonable and necessary for the prevention and suppression of disease; may forbid public gatherings when deemed necessary to control outbreaks or epidemics and shall advise the department of measures taken”

We should not need an order to make us do the right thing. We can choose to protect ourselves and each other, and thereby protect our community and economy, by changing our behavior in accordance with the actions listed above.